As you are no doubt aware, Monday is one of the biggest American holidays – Halloween. But you may not know or remember that Halloween began as All Hallow’s Eve, the vigil that takes place the evening before the church’s celebration of All Saints’ Day on November 1. The All Hallow’s observance itself came out of the pre-Christian Celtic celebration of Samhain (pronounced “Sow-en”, where sow rhymes with cow), which marked the beginning of winter and the first day of the new year. Going into winter must have felt like an apt time to reflect on human mortality, and so on this evening the souls of the dead were said to visit their homes. (This tradition is of course also related to the Day of the Dead celebrations in Mexico and beyond.) Since evil spirits might be out and about as well, bonfires were set on hilltops to scare them away, as well as to remember the light of the sun when the days were the shortest.
Whatever your Halloween plans are this week, why not take a moment to reflect on the themes of this time of year, and say a little prayer? Here is one from Tess Ward’s The Celtic Wheel of the Year:
Divine One you have graced me with knowing and you are present in my unknowing.
Be with me in all the in-between places where I do not know what creeps in the shadows,
the past that haunts and the future that frightens.
Let my heart’s aim be true in the daily ordinary uncertainty
for it is from this place that I must live and choose and trust.
Be with all those who feel tricked by life this day
Soften our hurt with the treats of your love so surely
that we might risk again and know that no bad thing comes from your hand.